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West Country Diaspora: Some Transported Cornish Traits in a Nineteenth-Century Wisconsinite Mining Community (pp. 125-145)

René Tissens

University of Salamanca


This paper attempts to examine the diasporic trajectory of West Country features, specifically Cornish speech, in the United States during the nineteenth century. The analysis is framed within the migratory waves of miners from the area of Cornwall and Devon who moved to the vast pockets of workable land in Wisconsin, Montana and ultimately California. These miner migrants settled and transformed the geography of the area as well as perpetuated a cultural bloodline still felt today in places such as Mineral Point (southwest Wisconsin). Evidence of Cornish talk during the 1850-60s, as gleaned by Copeland (1898), present in letters from Cornish migrants (Birch 1985-86) and later expected by Holway (1997-98), seems to be rich enough to be explored from a dialect survival angle. This paper examines this evidence from the perspective of surviving transported dialects overseas to determine whether a repertoire of Cornish linguistic traits was identified and employed in nineteenth-century Mineral Point, its perdurance and whether it fell in disuse. For this purpose, data gleaned from Copeland’s reports will be analysed qualitatively in light of nineteenth-century monographs on the dialect of Cornwall as well as contemporary studies in order to ascertain its authenticity and sociocultural weight. The paper seeks to contribute to research on the Cornish dialect and its diaspora beyond the boundaries of the old country.

Keywords: nineteenth-century Cornish dialect; enregisterment; mining communities; Wisconsin


René Tissens obtained a BA in English Studies from the University of Salamanca (2018) and an MA in Secondary Education and Foreign Language Teaching from the University of Salamanca (2019). He is currently working on his PhD dissertation on the enregisterment of the Devonshire dialect during the Late Modern English period under the supervision of Javier Ruano-García. His main fields of investigation encompass historical linguistics and sociolinguistics, with a special interest in Scotland and the West Country. As from July 2022, René holds a FPU research grant funded by the University of Salamanca.

e-mail addressrenetissens@usal.es


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